Saturday, July 9, 2011

Les Derniers Jours

So I have today and tomorrow left in France. I know that this phrase is overused, but man time goes by so quickly. Beneath the stress of packing up my life again to rejoin the other half in the United States, I have had a beautiful last month, but as the title of this blog says, my last days have really been enjoyable.

So at the end of June, I moved out of my Groupe Scolaire appartment in not-so-urban Villeurbanne. My wonderful friend, Mathéa, gave me the keys to her new apartment which is in the center of Lyon and I have been living there since the start of July. It is about 50 times better than where I was. The facades that surround me look like this:

I took this picture from my bedroom window. These facades are like doll houses! It really gives you the feeling you I am in Paris.

This is my building. If you can see the little green square sign, it is a few floors about that.

The street, rue du President Edouard Herriot, is also known for its good shopping, which is not healthy, especially because it is currently "Les Soldes" in France right now (massive sales take the nation). Let's just say I have done some shopping ces derniers jours.

Apart from living the good life on rue Edourd Herriot, I took, want seems to become a tradition now, a last trip to Switzerland to say goodbye to my good friend Mathéa. I say that it seems to be a tradition because last time I was in Lyon, I did the same thing before I left. She took me to Montreux, Switzerland, which was SO beautiful. Montreux lies on the shores of the massive Lake Geneva. With the water, the palm trees, fancy hotels and warm, but cloudy weather, I actually felt like I was in Hawaii. Here is a picture to give you a idea:

Also, currently in Montreux is the annual Jazz Festival, which has been a huge celebration since 1966. I am so lucky I had the chance to go. The festival lasts for a couple weeks and music takes over the Montreux coast of the lake. There are small groups, local groups and even super well known artists that play. Mathéa, me and another friend got tickets to see the big gig of the night which was Paolo Nutini. I didn't know his name at all, but then I heard his song, "New Shoes" and realized that I did know at least one song! His concert was so much fun. His voice is super sexy and his songs were upbeat and fun to dance to. I am very thankful.

Because the festival is known world-wide and a huge celebration, the posters each year are done by well-known artists and are absolutely beautiful! Here are a few of my favorites that I saw them selling as collector items.

This year's poster Artist: Francis Baudevin

Poster 1984 Artist: Niki de St. Phalle

Poster 1969 Artist: E Wondergem

Poster 1986 Artist: Keith Haring and Andy Warhol

Poster 1991

Poster 1983 Artist: Keith Haring

Poster 1976 Artist: Milton Glaser

For the day and a half that remains, I will be saying my last goodbyes, eating at my favorite cafes and restaurants (i.e.: ZONE VERTE and A CHACUN SA TASSE) and taking my last walks over the bridges. I am pleased to say that I am not too sad to leave. I am sad because I will be leaving my boyfriend, but I have the confidence that we will see each other again, and if that is the case, then I will definitely be coming back to France.

I can't be finished with my blog yet, because I still have a few things that I want to add. Let's hope i don't forget.

But in the mean time, I leave Monday morning for the U.S! So wish me a Bon Voyage! =)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The time I went to a beautiful French beach

The first weekend in June Lyon turned cold and rainy, so Romain, me, two other frenchies and a Uraguan escaped on roadtrip to the south of France, near the border of Spain: the region of the Pays Basque. Let me tell you, it was a real vacation. We spent everyday at the beach, splashing in the water and sun bathing underneath the flawless sky. It was perfect.

The city where we spent most of our time is called Biarritz. It is a pretty expensive city, but it exuded a resort feeling, which really made us feel like we were on vacation. Just before the sand of the seashore lied a casino - where Romain and I played the slot machines, and of course lost money - and behind the casino was a large strip of cute and original boutiques. Just walking around made us feel like we had money.

Apart from the beach, I adored the Pay Basque houses. Each one had its own personality. Many looked a bit spanish in style, some tuscan and others simply white, but with a colorful trim. However, each home had its own name written on the front of the house for everyone to see, which really differed them all from eachother! It was very cute. These names were not the names of the family either, they definitely had a different meaning and were something that the family must of created themselves.

Also, I cannot forget how intrigued I was by the French "autoroutes" - freeways. Because popular transportation in France is for the most part by metro in the city or by train across the country, it was a very special thing to me to be able to take a roadtrip and see the country's freeways. In order to use the autoroute, you must pay. It is a similar concept to toll roads in the states, but from what I learned, the only way you get across the autoroutes is if you pay, and it is quite expensive. It is like paying an extra full tank of gas! However, by paying to use the autoroutes, this keeps their freeways extremely clean and completely free of billoards and advertisemets. The only signs you see on the roads are of course the typical city signs that tell how many kilometers to the next city and also these extremely cool and stylized signs for cities with pictures of their landmarks, cultural association or popular destinations. These stylized signs were my favorite thing. I tried to take pictures, but of course it was impossible as we drove 110KM/H past the signs, and unfortunately I can't find any images on the internet. Well, for the most part the signs were all two-toned, mustard yellow and milk chocolate brown (lol very specific I know). But this two toned simplicity was awesome because even though every city's sign was completely different depending on what the city has to offer, all the signs were all looked more or less the same in style, uniting them all as what I am going to call "french autoroute city signs" lol

So over the 5 days spent at the beach, I definitely got a tan, perhaps a teensy bit sunburned, but it was all so worth it. Hopefully the tans stays with me until I get home! Here are some pictures below that our friend Bruno took from the trip.

The crew, minus Bruno who took the picture

Biarritz and its casino on the right

When I saw this scene on the beach, it immediately reminded me of a painting by Edouard Manet, so I took the picture. Well, if you look below, I have posted the painting by Manet.. lol it isn't that similar I suppose. But what caught my eye, other than the umbrella, the people on the beach and the fact that it takes place in France, was the color of the ocean. The Antlantic Ocean off the shores of France has a very pretty seafoam/aqua color that differs from the Pacific in California. When I saw the ocean with my own eyes, the color was so similar to painting of the ocean by Manet that I could really relate. It was one of those moments when a painting became so real to me because I felt like I saw with my owns eyes exactly what Manet saw with his.

Boulogne sur la Mer - Edouard Manet

Emmanuelle and me

Romain and me

Again, the crew

Beautiful sunset

If you are interested in a good French artist, Sebastian Tellier, his music video, "Roche," was filmed where we were in Biarritz. Faites voir ici:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quatre Mois Plus Tard

As I was shuffling through the crap on my shelf that I have accumulated over my past 8 months, I found the CD of pictures that Romain made for me for Valentine's Day, and then the memories leashed out. I want to share some pictures that are on the CD. The pictures are from our trip to Paris, Disneyland Paris and a couple other moments, so that dates them to about 4-5 months ago. Mind you, these are pictures taken from an iPhone, so the quality is far from fabulous, but it's the memories that are important to me.

Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland Paris is much more spectacular than the castle in Anaheim. It is much taller and looks more royal. Although, I must say that Disneyland Paris lacks the magic that is at Anaheim's Disneyland. We still had a blast, though. That just means I must take Romain to Disneyland back home =)

During the Lyon "Fête des Lumières" in December, the city's huge Parc Tête d'Or had an installation of fire. It was beautiful, magical and mysterious. In the pitch dark, you could see the firey gardens from a distance and you weren't sure what you were about to see. There were large rings of fire floating on the lake, firey lamps that lit up the paths, firey lamps hanging from the trees and other cool little gadgets that were all energized by the heat of fire. In this picture I am sitting in an iron-made chair that is warmed naturally by the oil lamps that you can see hanging on the right.

Not much explanation needed for the Eiffle Tower, but there it is, just on the other side of the Seine.

The sailboat pond just in front of the Louvre. It was cute to watch all the little kids using sticks to push the sailboats around so that they would catch the wind.

I look silly here, but I was really excited because this carousel was really pretty. It is pretty small, but I was fascinated by the lights. If you don't know, France LOVES carousels. They are everywhere.

The Notre Dame tried to get in our picture.

There are not many pictures, which is dommage (a bummer), but I am still glad that I have these memories to share. Something that I really should have invested in this year is a camera, but oh well, next time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Last night I had a dream that I was already back home. In the dream I had just arrived and I was meeting up with friends and family that I hadn't seen in a while. However, it felt like I had been home the whole time and I couldn't even remember France. I could not conjure one imagine of France. It was like it never happened.

In the dream I was extremely sad. Here I have been, talking about how excited I am to go home, when I know when I return home, I am going to miss France more than ever. When I woke up in my bed, still in the tiny Groupe Scolaire apartment where I live in Lyon, it was such a relief. I know that my next 6 weeks that remain here are going to fly by. I must soak in every positive charge of Lyon. France has given me so much. It has given me love. It has given me friendship. It has given me confidence. It has given me a second home.

I will not take France for granted. I hope that there will never arrive a time in my life when I can no longer imagine France. This place has become too important to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Tree of Life

How does writing my opinion on a movie relate to my experience in France? Well, one of the perks about being in France during the Cannes Film Festival is that movies that premiere at the festival come out in theater before those in America. For this reason, Terrance Malik's new film, The Tree of Life, came out in theaters today and I got to see it. I don't believe it comes out until the 27th in the states.

So, I would like to write a few words about The Tree of Life. I am no film critic, but I just got back from seeing this movie about one hour ago and I can't stop thinking about it. I won't lie, at the end of the film I wasn't sure if I loved it or hated it. In fact, there were many at the Cannes Film Festival who booed it at the end. Do not let the "booing" alarm you, however, the film did end up winning the Palme d'Or. If you decide to see it, I warn you to prepare yourself for a long and complex, yet beautiful and emotional film.

It always irritates me when I walk out of a movie and think, "I just don't get it. I mean, I am a college-educated adult, I should understand," and this is what happened to me at the end of The Tree of Life. What you must understand though is that you cannot walk into the theater expecting a story that you will easily be able to summarize in the end because this was my mistake. This is not just a fictional story of comedy, romance or drama, this is simply a story of life. Many reviews I read called it an "impression," which I very much agree with; an impression of life in which every human being will be able to relate to. It is this relation that really affected me emotionally and what I believe made the movie such a success. We all have experienced love, struggle, hatred, camaraderie, curiosity and even moments in life when must make the choice between good and evil, and these emotions or experiences are exactly what the movie reminds us about. Besides pondering upon themes or the purpose of the story, this movie is just beautifully created. The cinematography, the photography, editing and music will easily please the eyes and ears.

I only wanted to add a few words of thought about the film, but if you would like an in depth review of The Tree of Life, watch that of Richard Roeper. He gives an excellent explanation of the film.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


A week ago my friend Devan and I took a weekend trip to the city of Avignon. If this name rings a bell, you might know it from the title of one of the most famous Picasso works, "Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon."

Although Avignon did not carry any characteristic of brothels or prostitution, like in Picasso's painting, it was a cute city with an interesting history. It was not too large, and it was a nice quiet getaway in comparison to Lyon, but it still had its considerable amount of tourists.

In the 13th and 14th century Avignon had great importance for it's presence of Popes during the Catholic Schism. They lived in the "Palais des Popes" which is one of the city's main touristic attractions. Connected to the Palais is the famous bridge "Le Point d'Avignon." It is famous because it is actually only half of a bridge. It once connected to the island of Villeneuve-les-Avignon, which lies just on the other side of the Rhone (the same Rhone river that passes through Lyon), but apparently after several floods in the 1600's, it could not stand.

What I found fascinating about the city was that the medieval fortress walls, which once protected the city, were still in tact and beautifully preserved around the entire city center.

Devan and I arrived on the most perfect day : La Nuit des Musées - the night of museums. All museums in the city were free! =) Chez Le Musée Angladon, there was an exhibition on the photographs of Bonnard, Degas and Vuillard . This show was really interesting because these three artists are hardly known for photography, but known rather for their paintings during the post-impressionist period. I remember when studying the works of Degas that he was very much interested in photography and therefore painted in such a way that a camera would capture the scene that he was recreating, but I never imagined seeing an exhibition completely dedicated to his photographs. It was a wonderful idea for an exhibition and it showed the artistic and amicable relations among these three artists.

One of my favorite memories of Avignon was the wonderful smell and taste of lavender everywhere. Yes, I say taste because since the Provencal area in France (including Avignon) is known for their lavender fields, there were so many delicious treats of this aroma - lavender ice cream, lavender cookies, lavender candy, lavender pastis, lavender liqueur, lavender honey, lavender oil, etc... there were also your variety of lavender soaps, perfumes, lotions and cosmetics - I was quiet obsessed.

I was really pleased that I took this trip to Avignon. Because I don't have the largest salary, I hesitate to travel around France in fear of spending too much money, but I find it really important to take advantage of my French residency and visit as many cities as possible while I am here. I see France as a second home to me, who knows, someday I might have duel citizenship ;) and I must know more about the country outside from the knowledge gained from only visiting one or two cities.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Amsterdam: My Long Lost Home

This past week I visited Amsterdam. It had been a travel long waiting to happen and I am so happy that I had the opportunity to go. My original desire to go was sparked by the fact that my paternal ancestors migrated from the Netherlands to America back in the late 1800s and I wanted to visit their homeland. Now, my name "Venema" actually comes from the Northern Netherlands in Friesland, but why not visit Amsterdam, the capital that is full of culture, history and and awesome art scene. It turns out I love the place, and want to move there someday.

I honestly did not have any vision or idea of Amsterdam before arrival, so my first impression, set by the amazing "crooked" houses and beautiful canals, was off to a good start. The people were so nice, charming and genuine. We rented bikes in order to get around the city. It was really the best choice of transportation. It allowed us to really see the city, it's nooks and crannies. Of course we visited the central part of the city where you find downside of the city's reputation: sex shops/museums, red light district, coffeshops aka: weed zones and loads and loads of tourists, but to be honest, it was a good laugh, but not that impressive. We found this quarter in Jordaan called "9 straatjes," which we soon adopted as our area. There were adorable little boutiques everywhere, cool vintage stores, awesome art galleries, delicious real coffee shops and calm streets - a nice getaway from the touristy chaos in the center.

The Anne Frank House was so powerful and a must-see if you visit Amsterdam. If you are not familiar with the Anne Frank story, she was a young Jewish girl who was in hiding with her family in a house in Amsterdam for 2 years during the Holocaust. She kept a diary about her feelings, emotions and everyday life while in hiding, which was found after her death, and then published. I wasn't sure what to expect from the Anne Frank House, but the curators did an excellent job. The simplicity in design and the quotes from her diary throughout the house made the important story very easy for all ages to understand as well as very powerful. It was as if Anne was there, narrating her story and you just couldn't imagine how scary it was for her and her family during this war. At the end of the tour through the house, they have incorporated an installation on contemporary discrimination, which is an excellent ending that ties what has happened in the past to current events of today. There is a quote from Anne's father, Otto Frank, that I really like and find very important.

"To build up your future, you must know your past." - Otto Frank

The Van Gogh museum was something very special as well. I don't think I have ever seen a museum dedicated to one artist like this before, and I was impressed. The curators did a fabulous job explaining their goal to place Van Gogh's works in context and then following through. They have grouped his art in chronological order to show how he developed as an artist, but what I loved was that they included so many other artists and their works that inspired Van Gogh and that really helped him shape himself as an artist. To see a Jean-François Millet or a Japanese woodblock print right next to a piece of Van Gogh's by which he was inspired just made him so real to me. It might sound silly to say that, but I have studied all these artists in writing and in printed pictures, and it is like they are entertainment celebrities of today, but even more important. Though I will never see Van Gogh for obvious reasons, it was like I really got to know him throughout this exhibition, and that is direct evidence as to why I believe that the curators did an excellent job.

Okay, enough talky. Here are some not-so-excellent pictures and links to things I liked.

Great coffee:
Adorable girly boutique + cupcakes:
Good vintage shop:
Another good vintage shop:
Great art gallery, which had a beautiful solo exhibition of the artist Ryan Mcginley:
Amazing Thai food:


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pas Adieu, See You Soon.

Yesterday my best friend in Lyon left, Jess Mullen. I will say I did not cry when she left, although it did affect my entire day.

You see, when I was booking my flight home just a week ago, I decided that I would stop in Boston first, and that is where Jess lives. It just so worked out that I didn't have enough money to buy a flight to the west coast just yet, so Boston it was. Jess and I have been making wonderful plans (or more so, she is making wonderful plans) for when I come to visit 3 days in July. Thank goodness, because if this was not the case, my tears would have been all over Lyon yesterday.

After you part ways with someone from a place where you have made memories over certain period of time, in the case of Jess and I, 7 months, then you are bound to shuffle through all the good times just as the other is parting; this is why things got a tad bit emotional for me yesterday. I began to think, "Crap, everything that I have lived through my past 7 months is going to really change. I mean, Jess and I hung out everyday." If I start sharing memories with you, it is going to sound like she past away and I will never see her again, but thank God, that is not the case, so I am going to try to avoid that. haha. How about instead, I just share some pictures. Unfortunately, we didn't take as many pictures as we should have, =( but here is what I have. I added other pictures, a part from ones with us, that summarize our friendship or just things that made us laugh. You may not understand why I posted some of the pictures, but she will understand and hopefully will get some amusement out of them.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Croquants au chocolat - à l'écorce d'orange confite

This is a more expensive recipe to make, but that means that it has expensive taste as well! I was very satisfied with these croquants. They are a sweet sweet dessert, but it is not an overload! With the mixture of chocolate, orange and honey, there is not a focus on one flavor - you can really taste all the different flavors. The texture was a bit crunchy, hence the french name "croquant," but as they melt a little in your hand, they are a but chewy as well. This really is the most different dessert I have ever made, but I felt like such a fancy baker succeeding. =)

Croquants au chocolat - á l'écorce d'orange confit

Remember, these recipes are coming from a French dessert book entitled, "Biscuits et Petits Gateaux." All the ingredients are easily found in France, so it is possible that if you are somewhere else, you can have difficulty finding ingredients. Also, I am translating the directions from French to English, so I apologize for awkward statements

Preparation: 30 minutes // Refrigeration: 1 hour // Cook time: 8-10 minutes


200 grams of dark chocolate
100 grams of candied orange peel
50 grams (little bit more than 2 tablespoons) of honey
15 cl of creme fraiche épaisse (this is a french ingredient that may be hard to find in the states. I have heard that Trader Joes sells it. Otherwise try sour cream, it is the best match in flavor and texture.)
150 grams (2/3 cup) of sugar
60 grams (1/2 cup) of flour
oil for the baking sheet

Making the caramel:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Oil two baking sheets. Cut up 100 grams of candied orange peels. In a medium sized sauce pan, add 50 grams of honey, 150 grams of sugar and 15 cl of créme fraiche and bring to a boil. Continue to stir the mixture at a high heat for about 5 to 8 minutes. To verify that the caramel is ready, drop a small bit of the caramel into a cup of cold water : it should form into a molded ball. This part actually took me a long time to complete. I was stirring for almost 20 minutes!! I think this was because I didn't keep the heat high enough. Also, the ball of caramel won't necessarily form itself, touch it and if it is sticky enough to hold together, it should be ready. If you get a nicely formed ball of caramel, congratulations!

Forming the croquants:

Add the chopped orange peels to the caramel mix as well as 60 grams of flour. Mix rapidly and then remove the pan from the stove. With the help of 2 teaspoons (small spoons, not necessarily the measuring spoons) spoon out a nice bit of the mixture and drop it onto the oiled baking sheet. Leave enough space between each croquant. Slip the baking sheet into the oven and cook them for 8 to 10 minutes.

Melting the chocolate:

While the second batch is in the oven, and the others are cooling, melt the chocolate. The best way to melt the chocolate is in a small sauce pan placed in a larger sauce pan of boiling water. Break up the 200 grams of chocolate into the small pan and the water will melt the chocolate without burning it.

Topping the croquants:

After the chocolate is nicely melted, take a spatula or a knife and spread the chocolate onto the tops of the croquants. Place them on something flat that will fit in the refrigerator and let them cool for about an hour.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What has happened to manners, respect and civility?

France is a beautiful country, and I will always love this country - let's just get that straight - however, there are a few issues here that I have discovered from personal experience that really just limit the possibilities of me ever giving France another chance as a place to live in.

There is a lack of manners in this country. There is a lack of respect, and to some extent there is a lack of civility. The list of examples that I am about to share with you could be argued that they would also happen in America, although I believe that many would agree with me that these things that happen in France are occurrences and are actually a fact of living here, they are not just things that could happen by chance every once in a while.

It is funny because when people think of France, at least this is what I was taught, they think of a sophisticated bourgeois group of people sitting around drinking wine, eating expensive cheese and talking about art and literature. Well, this is now the type of people that I think of. I think of people who push you over in a rush to get out of or onto the metro. I think of men who will not offer their seat to a pregnant woman or 80 year old woman. I think of people who will bump into you and not say a word, let alone an "excuse me." I think of lousy customer service. I think of people who don't stand up for another person who might've been treated less than human. I think of the fright that I have when I walk past a group of guys that very well could holler at me and not leave me alone. Or how about that fact that I can't even look at someone an smile without giving the invitation of 1) sex or 2) a fight. I know not every person who is French would be an example for each of these scenarios, I mean I have a french boyfriend who is wonderful, but in the past 7 months of being a French resident, I have witnessed or been the victim of each of these examples multiple times. It really is a shame that these things happen, but I think it is important to share these facts with people

Last night, something happened to me that scared me to death. I went to the cinema at the Institute Lumière for the opening night of a tribute to the American film director, Stanley Kubrick. They were showing the film, "The Shining," and it has been a plan for a while for me to go with my boyfriend and his friend. I, unfortunately, did not buy my ticket in time so I had to wait in a long line with the hopes that I could get a seat on the steps inside the theater. There were about 100 people in line and I was in the middle. After about 40 minutes of waiting, a guy and his friend walk up to where I am in line and place there bags on the outside of the retractable barrier. I thought to myself, "what the heck are these guys doing?" Anyway, about after 10-15 minutes, one of the guys comes back, moves the barrier outwards and then places himself in line right next to me. Nobody said a word! I wanted to immediately say something, but I was not comfortable enough in my French to say anything. It is so French of people to just ignore a situation like this and not stand up for themselves. I kept thinking over and over in my head, "what can I say, what can I say?" As I was mustering up my anger and courage to say something, the guy takes off his earphones and starts blasting his music in line. This is also something that people do here. It is extremely annoying and disrespectful to other's surroundings. This just got me even more irritated. Then the guy's friend decides to come back and the two of them, again, push out the barrier to make room for the second guy to cut it line. I was fed up and thought, you know what, I am going to stand up for myself and not let these guys take my place. I said to them, "Excuse me, you were not in front of me," and at that point, the guy next to me pushed me, with enough force that I fell back into the man behind me. This guy began yelling and cussing me out, saying words that I didn't understand, and I was so scared. Who knows what he could have done at that point!! I have seen guys this man's age with knives before on the metro. Once a man on the metro sliced another man's neck because the man was not comfortable with the fact that the other guy brought a ferret onto the metro! I mean, all I was thinking was this guy could stab me! The people around me really didn't do much. I was surrounded by a middle aged man, two young adult men and then two other young adults, a guy and a girl. They gasped when the man pushed me, but that was about it. The middle aged man let me pass in front of him, but even after that I could hear the man yelling and still cussing me out behind me. I texted my boyfriend who was in the theater during all this and let him know what happened and that I was really scared. I started crying, crying hard. The two guys in front of me comforted me, said "Don't cry, he won't touch you. Here, go in front of us," but still I was really scared. Romain, my boyfriend, came out and was livid, wanted to know who did that to me. But I didn't want to make a scene because I didn't want him to get hurt. Romain told the people who worked there what happened and asked for security, but the theater had no security!!! What public event doesn't have security!?

To wrap it up, the man who harassed me successfully got into the theater, but was a nuisance. He made such a disruption that when someone told him to "shhh," that set him off again. The theater had to pause the movie and turn the house lights on. Everyone in the theater was standing and yelling at this guy. The guy tried to attack another man about four rows down until a few spectators grabbed that man and dragged him out. Romain called the police, but they were already on there way. At the end of the movie, the theater told us that there was security now placed outside and that the police took the man away. After he was finally gone, I felt a little better.

But what is wrong with people!? I mean, sure, this could potentially happen in America, but you got to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you know what I mean? If someone cuts in front of you in line back home, people will say something, not just one person, but people! Why was I the only one to stand up for myself? And then what is wrong with the man that would make such a fit about me addressing that he cut in line to actually push a 23 year old girl!! It was like he wanted to fight me!!! In that scenario, that man had no manners, no respect and did not know how to act civil. I am not saying that this will happen to everyone who comes to France, but you do need to be careful. You must be careful at who you look at here. You must look careful at what you say to people here and you must be cautious of the distance that you keep from people because the likelihood of them snapping or harassing you is a lot higher.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lyon Summer Nights

Okay, it isn't Summer yet, but the 80 degree weather and the long days sure makes it feel so.

I am falling in love with Lyon again.. this is not good. Maybe it is good because when I leave, I most likely will leave France on good terms, but otherwise, it is going to make it really hard! Last night I was walking across one of our awesome bridges that stretches across the Sôan River. The river was so still and all the lights from the surrounding buildings reflected off of it like a mirror - one of the heart dropping beautiful scenes in Lyon. Then I looked up and the sky was navy blue, still a bit of sunlight deep down in the horizon, and the very bottom sliver of the moon was shining, right between the Fouvrière and Lyon's fake Eiffel Tower (hehe). It was SO pretty!!!! And it was so warm! I just wanted to lay right there and stare at the sky like that for hours.

A few days before, on Sunday evening, Romain and I took a bike ride at dusk along the Rhone river. The weather was so warm and you could already see the stars in the sky. After about 15 minutes of riding, we actually were chased away by lightening and pouring rain, but it just felt so magical! There is just something about warm, late evenings, the stars and rain that gives me comfort and happiness.

It is a bummer because Lyon and I are rekindling our love for each other and now I have to search for flights home. And let me tell you, it is a vicious search because flights are just insanely expensive in July, and I WILL FIND A REASONABLE PRICE!!!! Furthermore, today I was informed that there will be a month of concerts played outside below the beautiful Fouvrière and two of my favorite bands, Beirut and Cocoon, will be playing, but a week after I need to leave!!! Bahhh! Why?? This makes it so difficult to choose a flight day. However, I think that I will sacrifice and just skip the concerts because I need to get back home and get a job versus spend more money.

You see, Lyon seems to have so much promise for these upcoming months/summer nights! I'm really pleased that I will be staying until the beginning of July. I'm looking forward to picnics, relaxing in the park, riding bikes along the quai du Rhone and stargazing!

Shortbread au chocolat

I don't know about you, but when I see the word "shortbread" I think of a buttery, hard and crunchy type of cookie. If you have the same idea as I do, then I will tell you now, this recipe is not what you think it will be. But don't be alarmed, this "shortbread" is delicious! I actually think that it is more of what the British believe to be shortbread. The texture resembles more to a cake, but not as compact and moist, and it's a bit crumbly. The chocolate in this shortbread was actually pretty subtle, well at least to the richness of the chocolate in my last recipe. I have made 4 recipes from this book so far, and my boyfriend says that this is his favorite so far. Again, the picture that I have might not be the most attractive, but mmmm they were good.

Recipe: Shortbread au chocolat

Remember, these recipes are coming from a French dessert book entitled, "Biscuits et Petits Gateaux." All the ingredients are easily found in France, so it is possible that if you are somewhere else, you can have difficulty finding ingredients. Also, I am translating the directions from French to English, so I apologize for awkward statements

Preparation: 20 minutes // Baking: 30 minutes


1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
100 grams (7 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
70 grams (5 tablespoons) of salted butter
170 grams (3/4 cup + 1/8 cup) brown sugar (this is NOT molasses brown sugar like we are used to in the states, it is like raw sugar)
340 grams (3 cups + a little bit more) of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

Preparation of ingredients:

Preheat the oven to 355 degrees F (180 degrees C). Sift 340 grams of flour into a mixing bowl to eliminate all the clumps. Add 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 170 grams of brown sugar and mix. Cut 100 grams of unsalted butter and 70 grams of salted butter into little cubes and place them on a plate to the side.

Making the dough:

Add the pre-cut butter cubes and 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to the flour mix. With your fingers mix all the ingredients together so that it the dough is nicely blended and becomes crumbly. Now, butter a cookie sheet.

Molding the shortbread:

Remove and save 1/4 of the dough and put it to the side. Add 1 egg to the remaining dough and mix together until it is well compacted. Move the dough onto the cookie sheet and pat it out, forcing it to form into the shape of a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Take the crumbly dough that was saved and cover the top, pressing down the dry dough into the wet dough.

Cooking the shortbread:

With a knife, cut the raw dough into rectangles or squares of your choice of size and dimensions. Put it in the oven and allow it to bake for 30 minutes. After it is finished, let it cool down a bit and then they are ready!

** petit warning **

The flour in France is different than the flour in America. I know this from experience with attempting American treats in France with their ingredients. Flour in France tends to make things a lot fluffier. Please, however, don't hesitate to use the flour that you know best - I am still interested if those across the seas can make these French recipes. This is just to warn you in case your shortbread comes out differently than you expected, in that case, it is probably not you.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Irony of a Bright Gloomy Day

Yesterday was such a gloomy day. A thick gray blanket of clouds covered the sky and it poured rain for most of the day, however, I have not seen so many beautiful colors as illuminate as they were yesterday. It was as if the gray backdrop was exactly what was extracting their vibrancy. I wish so badly that I had a camera, but unfortunately I don't, so the only pictures I took are from a blackberry. Also, you might not be so impressed with these photos, but take more word, the colors really were beautiful and really stood out. Plus, I saw these plants just on one street on my walk to pay my rent, there were so many more plants and represented colors all over Lyon - pinks, purples, more shades of yellow, more shades of green and reds!

I LOVE the yellow tree in the back. There are many of these pretty yellow flowered trees all over Lyon right now.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sablés chocolat-caramel

For my birthday, the parents that I babysit for bought me a dessert recipe book because they knew I love to bake and try new recipes. The exciting thing is that because this is a French recipe book the desserts are different than anything I have ever made before, and plus I get to learn new french vocabulary as used in cooking! =) My plan is to post the recipe that I use, show pictures of how the dessert turns out and then give you a bit of my personal experience with making the dessert and my final opinion on the outcome.

This is the book I am using:

The first recipe that I made from this book is called Sablés chocolat - caramel. And below are pictures of how they turned out. I am taking pictures with an iPhone and am not a great photographer, so the pictures might not be pretty, but this is really how they looked. It is always so disappointing when you make a recipe and it looks nothing as fancy as the picture that the book gives you. I am translating the recipe from French to English, so if I phrased things oddly, I apologize. I did my best

These sablés were delicious! =) They are a bit rich because there is a lot of sugar!! But rich is good ;) My boyfriend suggested that we put salt in the caramel mix, which I think is a great idea. The recipe does not call for salt, and we did not try it, but you can try it if you wish.

Recipe: Sablés chocolat - caramel.

Preparation: 40 minutes // Cooling: 2 hours // Baking: 30 minutes // Drying: 1 hour


200 grams dark chocolate
1 egg
3 tablespoons liquid crème fraîche (unfortunately this is a french ingredient. The American equivelent is sour cream, or try heavy whipping cream. The recipe calls for liquid form, but try either one.)
180 grams (12 1/2 tablespoons) butter
150 grams (just a teensy bit more than 3/4 cup) white sugar
150 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour

Preparing the dough:

Sift 150 grams of flour in a large mixing bowl. Cut 100 grams of butter into little cubes and add them to the flour. Mix with fingers until the dough becomes crumbly. Add 50 grams of sugar and 1 egg. Work the dough quickly in order to well blend all the ingredients. Once the dough is well blended, roll it into a large ball and allow it 2 hours in the refrieragtor so that it becomes nicely compacted.

Finishing the dough:

Preheat the oven to 390 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out the dough onto a flat surface with a rolling pin, then with your hands pat out the dough so that it forms into a rectangle about 40 x 15 cm and 5 to 5 mm thick. If the dough is pretty tough to work, just let it sit out in room temperature for some time. Put the dough onto a cookie sheet and poke it many times with a fork so the dough can ventilate. Bake for 15 minutes. Cut 80 grams of butter into little cubes. Melt, at high heat, 100 grams of sugar with the 3 tablespoons of creme fraiche (sour cream or heavy cream).

Preparing the caramel:

When the sugar and cream begins to boil, add the butter cubes one at a time. Continue to stir without stopping. I found it best to lower the heat once the liquid starts to boil. If it heats too fast, it can burn. Continue to heat and stir the liquid for about 10-12 minutes. If you have a sugar thermometer, the temperature must reach 125 degrees C (257 degrees F). When ready, pour the caramel onto the cooked dough and spread as best as you can to fill the edges. Allow it to cool down and harden in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Layering the chocolate (you can begin this when the cooling hour is almost finished):

Break 200 grams of dark chocolate into small pieces and put them into a small pot. In a larger pot, boil water and sit the small pot of chocolate into the boiling water. This is the best way to melt the chocolate, then it will not burn. Once the chocolate is well melted, spread it onto the stop of the caramel layer and smooth it out as if you are icing the top of a cake. Allow it to dry. I put mine back into the refrigerator so that it would cool and dry quicker. Finally, after the chocolate has dried, you can cut the rectangle into squares with a knife, your preferred size.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bring on the Cheese

I don't want to apologize for not blogging since (how long has it been?) January, so I'm not going to, however, I will give you an explanation, or at least what I think is an explanation other than just pure laziness.

I wrote most of my blogs before because it was like I was on the search for something - maybe on the search for adventure, maybe on the search for a complaint or maybe on the search for just something new. Well I did find something new quite a long time ago, but I just never really blogged about it or shall I say him? Yes, my something new is a boy. And this is where it gets cheesy. He just takes all my attention. ;) baaah cheesy.

When I learned that I would be coming to France last year I saw it as my after college opportunity to soul-search, immerse myself in another culture, find new adventures and experience my first job as a post college student. In my mother's eyes, however, she was convinced that my ambition was to find a French guy, fall in love blah blah blah, live the movie-script ending and stay in France with lover boy for the rest of my life. I had many arguments with my mother over her absurd accusation, but I suppose that she wasn't too far off from what actually happened. I still have 3 months left of my employment here in France, and though I have accomplished everything that I wanted, my adventure is not over and this time of my life will be unforgettable.

Now, why did my mother's accusation become something close to reality? Back in October I went to a Halloween party where a met a boy. In fact, if you refer back to my blog post from October 30th, you will see that I wrote about a charming French boy who dedicated a song to me.. well, that is the boy. After we met that night, we really hit it off. Of course, his impeccable taste in music and cute style was a strong attraction for me, but I soon learned that he was the sweetest guy that I had ever met. We have been together for almost 5 months now and he has made my time in France amazing. Now that I have met my French boy, it is not my plan to stay in France and live out that stereotypical Frenchy romantic life, but I am excited to see where there future of Romain and I lies.

Romain was who went with me when I went to Disneyland Paris - which was a BLAST - and I do actually apologize for not blogging about that. See, I wanted to use pictures, and I just never got around to uploading them to my computer, so I forget about it. But I will say that it was so much fun! And although it wasn't as AMAZING and MAGICAL as Disneyland in Anaheim, the park was similar enough that I felt a bit at home =)

My upcoming blogs will be blogs about french dessert recipes that I have been trying. YAY! So far it has been a success, AND I do have pictures, so hopefully the posts will be up soon.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Got Out!! Imagine That!!

Today was a great day for me. I did absolutely nothing the entire day, which was quite nice, until 7:00 at night when my friend, Jess, and I decided we would get out for some human interaction.

We both live in Villeurbanne aka: the ghetto quarter of Lyon and since we don't have much money, we really don't get out that often. Tonight we decided to go out to the ol' faithful Vieux Lyon, considering it had been over one month since we paid it a visit. We ran into a few other Americans and had good laughs and great talks all night. As Jess and I were walking to the metro, naturally we passed the Basilique de Fourvrière, and we both were refreshed with the fact that, yes in fact, we do live in Lyon - a beautiful city with a history that lasts longer than the life of our own country. I stood there just about 150 feet below the cathedral in awe. Do understand, since I never get out, I rarely ever see it.. this is a terrible shame.. Anyway, I had to RUB my eyes to make sure that what I was looking at was real and not a dream.

The pictures do not justify its beauty, but please look at these pictures below to understand what I am talking about. The first picture is obviously a night picture and is the setting in which I saw the cathedral tonight. The second picture I like because the dark and light contrasts show you its defining features in the architecture which make is sooo preettty. =)

I'm sure that you people who read my blog have seen this cathedral a few times, but as you know, it doesn't matter how many times I see it.. It is amazing everytime. France will always be something special to me for exact reasons like this. This is not the first and not the last time that I will say this, but you will just never find architecture like this in America.. it just won't happen. Ever.

Friday, January 21, 2011

1 person living in 2 countries.

You know what is really stressful? Living your life in two countries at the same time.

Upon my arrival in France, it would have been ideal to completely forget about my burdens in America, so then I could just handle my burdens in France.. but it doesn't work like that. I don't even think America knows that I am not there right now.. maybe the consulat in Los Angeles knows, but who else? I also don't think they know that I have a social security number in a different country.. isn't that weird?? So as long as they know, I am still in America!!

Over the past 4 months here, my life in America and my life here in France have just gotten harder and harder. While I am juggling finances in France now, I am also continuing to pay bills in America. This was given that I would have to do this, but a new bill has been thrown upon me: school loans. AHHH, 6 month grace period is not nearly long enough. You are probably asking, why don't you just defer your loans if you can't pay them right now? Well you know, I'm trying! But I was informed way too late about a bill and did not have time to apply for deferment. *sigh* stressful. Upon bills, I have to think about saving money to get back to the United States. For some reason, one way flights to the U.S in July are double the price of round trip flights right now.. pas compris.

So saving/managing money in France for my life in America while living in France at the same time is not the easiest thing. Before coming here, I said that I don't know when I am coming home because honestly, I considered it possible that I would renew my contract for another year.. but now, I am confident to say that I will be home in the next 6 months. My life spread across two countries is just too cluttered to alloz it to last another year and a half.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reprend le Role du Touriste.

So I have realized that I am taking for granted the time that I have here in France. I wanted to come here and try to live the life as a French resident. You know, be "French," whatever that means. I wanted to just stay in my own city and experience life in the city. I didn't want to travel around as a tourist. It was almost as if I had convinced myself that I would be able to assume a French character, as if I was temporarily not myself. But to be French would be to not appreciate the country and the culture from the perspective of an outsider. To most places in the world, France is a beautiful, cultivated and rich land with lots of history. It is a country with a lasting reputation of creativity, arts, love, intelligence. This is the France that I fell in love with when I took my first French class in 2008.

So today it hit me. I am not going to ever assume a French character and I am okay with that. But with the few months that remain I need to resume my role as a tourist. As a tourist I will be able to file away the problems that I have had with French administration and government run organizations. I can once again appreciate the wonderful that France is.

But how will I do this? I don't have amazing funds, but I will try to make it work - even if hitchhiking is a way of transportation!! ;) The following places are where I want to visit before I go home.

The region of Normandy
  • The artist Claude Monet was especially inspired by this area of France and painted many Normandy landscapes. I would love to see what his eyes saw
  • I would also love to see Mont St. Michel. As you see in the picture below, it is absolutely beautiful, but one of the reasons why it is famous is due to the ocean's extremely high tide and very low tide that has formed it into the tidal island that it is today. Super cool! =) If you don't get off of the land before the tide rises, you could be stuck there until the tide goes back down!

  • As many of you may know, I already posted a few months ago why I want to go to Nantes. The song from Beruit, titled "Nantes" is my inspiration to go.
  • Also, Nantes is located in the Brittany region, which unfortunately I don't know too much about, but would like to discover. Apparently Brittany used to be a small province within itself and had a duke and dutchess!! I really love seeing France's medieval parts =) It is definitely something you would NEVER find on the North American continent, that is why it's so cool.
  • I also remember when studying the art of Paul Gauguin that he spent a lot of his career in Brittany, so naturally, again I am interested in seeing another area that inspired an amazing artist.
  • Corsica is an island south of France located in the Mediterranean Sea. All I have heard are great things about Corsica. My friend, Mathéa, always tells me how beautiful it is. Some of you might know that I love her name and hope to name one of my future children Mathéa, and the name comes from Corsica, so obviously I have to go ;)
  • The Chateau of Versailles was the palace of the three kings Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. I have actually already been to the chateau in 2005, but the one thing that I wanted to see there was under construction, and that is the Hall of Mirrors.

  • I have obviously been here a few times, but I feel like you can never get enough of it. I wish to one day go here by myself so I could spend an entire day at one museum, but I'm not sure if I can do that hehe. Good news is that I am going to Paris in three weeks AND Disneyland Paris at that!!! I absolutely cannot wait for this. I dream about it. hehe.
If I succeed to visit all these places, I will be completely satisfied. =) I know that sometimes I complain about being in France, but I mean, when I talk about these beautiful historical French cities and post these amazing pictures, it does make me realize that I am going to miss this place when I go home - and this is good because then I will always be able to view France from the perspective of an outsider. I will continue to remember it with that perfect image of beauty, history and love.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

She Wears Ribbons in Her Hair

I must first show you the adorable Christmas present that I received from my sister - the packaging has everything to do with this post.

Yes, it is sideways, but I couldn't figure out how to rotate a picture on blogger. lol Anyway, I was so happy to receive a present that wasn't just placed in a package, but actually wrapped! It was as if I were opening the gift at home.. I loved the wrapping paper, the fact that she wrote "To: Mallory ♥Melissa" and the ribbon. When I saw the ribbon I thought, "YAY! =) It's red and silky! This is a perfect hair accessory!" hehe =)

Well yesterday I finally decided to use my new hair accessory. I was asked 4 times, "What is that in your hair?" This question was asked by 3 Frenchies and one British. When the last one expressed his confusion as to why I had a ribbon in my hair, I then asked him, "Is it not normal to wear ribbons in your hair in France or something? You are the 4th person to ask me this!" And he said, "Yea, girls don't do that here."

Well, you know what France? It is absolutely normal and ADORABLE to wear ribbons in your hair!!!

Here is proof:

The late 70's band, The Cars, have a song "Just What I Needed" where they sing about a girl that wears ribbons in her hair.

Also, her are many pictures.

Adorable little girl.

Random grown girl who knows that wearing ribbons is totally cute and makes you feel super girly!

Audrey Hepburn.. really I shouldn't even show any more pictures.. Audrey is all we need. If Audrey does it, you should do it. She is the epitome of beauty and class. However, I will continue anyway.

Kelly Osbourne .. I think. ;)

They are even in the arts! You see, Roy Lichtenstein understood the ribbon.

I don't need to justify the ribbon, though, it justifies itself ;) It's feminine, it's youthful and it's playful.. If your girls don't wear ribbons, they should! =)

And Melissa, thank you so much for my new hair accessory. I will definitely wear it again.